Downsizing.

So the family got together tonight and watched “Downsizing” on iTunes. It became available for home rental last week.

I’d seen the trailers for this movie last autumn and I thought the premise looked quite interesting. It’s billed as a comedy. The world is in ecological turmoil and Norwegian scientists have come up with a solution: an irreversible cellular miniaturization process that shrinks folks down to about 5-inches tall. The small people have less of an impact on the environment, hence the world will last longer.

The movie starts out as the trailer depicts and is quite interesting. Seeing how the small people live, the miniaturization process, how much further money goes when you’re buying small versions of everything, stuff like that. It took me a few moments to figure out why everyone had big antennas stuck to their miniaturized iPhones and then I appreciated the, pardon the pun, little details that brought authenticity to this alternative universe. A quick aside, some of the special effects were not as good as I expected them to be in a 2017/2018 movie.

The problem was about a third of the way into the movie I started wondering what the point and/or the plot was. Where was this movie headed?

Apparently the director or producer realized the same thing and the entire movie takes a sharp left turn into whack-a-doo world where being tall or small doesn’t really matter anymore. In fact, near the end when we see the “smalls” flying in their special section of an airplane to return from where they had all this weird twist to the plot, I was like, “Oh yeah, they’re smaller than everyone else, totally forgot about that.”

The problem is, the plot was so weak, we took a break to make snacks and ask ourselves, what is the point of this movie? Characters just disappeared. Scenes that appeared in the trailer are nowhere to be found in the actual movie and the whole whimsy small people on a ferris-wheel vibe is mindlessly absent from the finished project.

I’m happy we chose to watch this movie via iTunes because we were only out $5.99. We probably should have checked Netflix and watched it as part of a monthly rental package.

Had we experienced “Downsizing” in the theatre we would have definitely been out too much money.

This was more than a small disappointment.

Play Ball!

It’s that time of the year in the neighborhood!

We live just a short walk away from Wrigley. We will be attending many games this season.

Fly The W!

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Visit Safely.

I making some changes to this ancient blog to deal with any potential privacy concerns when you visit to read my latest witty missive.

I have removed the “Share This” buttons from my blog posts. I don’t know what Twitter and Facebook were doing behind these buttons to track their usage (honestly I don’t have time to dig into that code right now), so I just removed the buttons altogether. I don’t know if folks were sharing my posts in this manner but now they will just have to copy and paste the link to a post in their own tweet.

None of my personal sites have advertising on them. I am not a fan of the ad supported model that runs rampant over the Internet. I don’t even like ads on my television shows. The ironic thing about that is I used to make a living writing ad copy for a group of radio stations. The more you know, I guess. Anyway, there’s nothing on this blog or any of my sites that generates revenue and I will continue to have it that way. To the best of my knowledge there’s nothing on my sites that tracks user data either. I need to look into the JetPack services from WordPress. If they’re tapping into user data, I will vanquish them from my site immediately.

From this point forward I will no longer embed YouTube videos into my posts. Google was tracking the who, what, and where when people watched these videos and I don’t like that, so when I post a video in the future it will be grabbed, stripped of its metadata and hosted on my own server. You should be able to watch a video without fear of being tracked.

I know this blog is goldfish swimming in this huge digital ocean, but I believe in practicing what you preach and I am not going to contribute to the degradation of user privacy on the Internet. It’s something that I strongly believe in and I will continue to advocate for user’s digital rights in any way that I can.

Privacy.

In January 2014 I started up a new Facebook account. It was on that date that I abandoned my original Facebook account, opened during the time that it required an .edu email address (I was in school to become a Civil Engineer at the time). I felt that the original account had filled up with too much crud and started fresh with this second account.

Today I downloaded a zip file of all the data Facebook has on me. It was a fairly small download, clocking in at just under 300 MB. Every photo, video, update, message, contact, thought… it’s all in that archive. Any and everything I shared with Facebook is in that zip file. Every time someone flirted with me over Facebook Messenger, every Russian bride wanna be that tried to get my attention, every game request, it’s all in there.

Downloading this data did not remove it from Facebook’s servers. It just gave me a copy of it.

I have been fortunate to have enjoyed online access of some sort since the GEnie service back in 1985. When I was in college (the first time) in 1986, I used to dial into GEnie and chat with other gay men scattered around the country. I remember the first time I saw an emoticon crawl across my Commodore 64. It took me a few moments to realize it was a sideways smiley face. 🙂 At 300 baud, it took a few moments for the smiley face to appear. A man that I was chatting with told me to never share anything on a computer that I wouldn’t mind sharing on the front page of the New York Times. He asked me my phone number. It was 1986, I gave him the number to the rotary phone on my dorm room wall. Two days later a card arrived in the mail. It wished me a Happy St. Patrick’s Day (it must have been 1987, now that I think about it) and it said, “I was able to find your name address from your phone number. Don’t share that information.”

I learned my lesson early.

Anything that I have shared online I would freely discuss in public. But it’s the stuff that I suspected Facebook was pulling from my data that I find alarming. Like every one of my work contacts appearing in the archive I downloaded today. When Facebook synced my contacts with my Facebook friends list to populate avatars in my list, it pulled all of my contacts down at the same time.

I have a record of every poke and every wave.

I’m happy that I use Apple products; Android users are finding that ALL of their messages and the meta data about their phone calls are ending up in their Facebook archives. Apple iOS sandboxes that information and makes it unavailable to third party applications.

There’s something to be said for paying more for Apple devices. Privacy and security are the drivers for me.

I have not deleted my Facebook profile but I have stopped using it. I’m letting it sit dormant for 30 days to see if I feel the same way at the end of April.

I’ll probably delete it then.

Positivity.

I’m writing this blog entry as a reminder. I have it bookmarked across my devices.

Last night we took a “Minnie Van” to dinner. The service is powered by Lyft and is fairly new to Walt Disney World. All of the drivers are Disney cast members.

The driver of our Minnie Van to the Boardwalk was a woman originally from Illinois. Like most cast members at Disney World, she was quite chipper in her demeanor. The thing that struck me as quite nice is she seemed to be a genuinely nice person. She loved her life, she loved she loved what she did with her life, and her outlook was bright. One could easily see that her pleasant Midwest demeanor had just been enhanced with her relocation to Orlando.

Pleasant people make the world a better place.

I’ve saved this entry and photo as a reminder to me to focus on being pleasant. Find a positive attitude. Share those pleasantries.

It’s a great way to make the world a better place.

Feeling.

I have no idea who is in this choir or where they are from. All I know is that their performance seemed quite genuine today. A couple of the performers swayed as they sang, and the swaying felt like it conveyed the emotion they were feeling as they sang their song. Someone on the left was singing flat on every note, but I couldn’t identify who that was. The tall blonde on the left hand side of the stage was the soaring soprano; her voice was easy to pick out. The young men in the back needed a touch more confidence. This was something that I was told all the time when I was their age and now I’m telling them: you sound good, sing it out.

Listening to this unknown choir sing at Disney Springs today was a delight. They were good and they should be proud of their performance today. Whoever you are, great job. You represented your school well today.

Relax.

An efficient use of today’s technology can help the traveler relax as he waits for a bus. This screen updates continuously based on GPS tracking of the bus. Disney definitely got this one right. Good job.

Data Exchange.

So “Pirates of the Caribbean” here at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom opened this week after being down for refurbishment. One of the changes to the attraction was the elimination of the “wench sale” and they replaced it with a pirate selling valuable things. The refurbishment looks good.

Many of the E-ticket attractions at Disney snap your photo at the perfect moment. As you exit the attraction there’s often monitors with photos of the folks that are exiting along with you. In the olden days you would then decide if you wanted to purchase the photo or not by visiting the gift shop. With today’s technology you tap your MagicBand or Photo Pass card and add the photo to your account. It is then available for purchase online. We purchased Disney’s “Memory Maker” package for this trip, so all of these photos, in addition to the photos taken by photographers around the parks, are available for download almost immediately.

We were surprised to see multiple flashes on “Pirates of the Caribbean” because we didn’t think there was a photo opportunity on the attraction. As we exited the ride there were no monitors showing photos, so we just moved on.

This photo showed up in our Photo Pass feed late last night.

As a data geek I find this interesting. First of all, no one in our family tapped anything to correlate the photo with our Photo Pass feed. There was no MagicBand or Photo Pass confirmation action associated with this photo. So Disney figured out it was our photo all on their own.

At first I thought this was done through Facial Recognition, but I’m feeling more comfortable with another theory I have; they used GeoFencing. The “My Disney Experience” app on my phone has location services on but only when I’m using the app, not in the background. So this means the RFID chip in our MagicBands have enough juice for long range sensors. A quick look at Wikipedia confirms that the newer bands indeed work this way.

In many ways this technology is very, very cool. I like it a lot and the whole data connectivity geek in me grooves on this. The only thing that gives me a bit of pause is that it links my face with my Disney activity. Not overly nefarious in itself but it could be used for evil purposes if this technology were to fall in the wrong hands.

I’ll have to read up on the Disney Terms of Service. If Disney is making this information available to outside parties it will make me think twice. If Disney is using it for only Disney services, I think it’s pretty nifty.

Kiss.

While touring the Magic Kingdom today, I spotted two young people kissing in the crowd. The crowd was at a standstill and the two people in question were holding hands and giggly. It looked like young love.

I was reminded of a video I stumbled across years ago. It was a video of strangers kissing for the first time. I remember finding such a beauty in the black and white video. I watched it again this evening.

It’s still an incredibly beautiful video to me. And even though I’ve been married for over 21 years, I can still vividly remember the first time I kissed my husband and how I still see fireworks every time I kiss him.

Every kiss is a first kiss.